The Mediator Controls the Message
If you’re a professional mediator or an attorney who’s trying to establish a mediation practice, you probably don’t have a particularly high public profile. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing because it means you have an incredible amount of control over the information that people will find when they search for your name online.
In this article, we’ll talk about how you can leverage that power and use digital marketing tools and tactics to grow your mediation practice.
The First Step: Crafting Your Brand
Most people associate branding with logos, but a great brand is much more than that. Branding is how you infuse your communications with purpose from a marketing standpoint.
Different marketers will give all sorts of definitions for the word “brand,” but perhaps the most helpful is this: Your brand is what your potential client thinks of when they hear your name. Branding, then, is the process of trying to make sure that image of you lines up with the way you want to be seen.
A big part of branding is visual, which is why so many people associate logos with brands. And make no mistake, it’s important to have a professionally designed logo and website, along with accompanying assets like business cards and letterhead. Those assets will send a strong message about your brand before people read a single word about you.
The content you create, the messages you send, your reputation, and your public profile also shape your brand. One way to make sure your messaging consistently stays on-brand is to craft a mission statement. It doesn’t need to be long or intricate, but it should get to the core of what you hope to accomplish as a mediator.
Here are a couple of examples of mission statements from real mediators:
- “I’m dedicated to helping individuals and businesses resolve conflict and move forward in their lives by providing caring, accurate, thorough, and creative legal services.”
- “I’m a navigator who empowers people to move through the sea of conflict from where they are to where they want to be.”
The benefit of having a mission statement is that it provides a reference point that you can always go back to when trying to craft messaging and implement strategies. Sometimes, deciding between different approaches can be as simple as asking, “Which of these best furthers my mission?”
Next Up: Identifying Your Audience
Thinking through your branding helps you decide what you want to say and how you want to say it, but now you need to decide who to say it to and figure out how to reach them.
As a mediator, your target audience will most likely depend on what types of cases you handle:
- If you focus on personal injury or malpractice cases, you probably want to target other attorneys first and foremost.
- If you primarily handle business matters like breaches of contract or employment disputes, your primary audience will be business owners (as well as attorneys who work with them).
- If your main area of focus is divorce cases and other family law matters, you’ll probably want to target therapists, mental health professionals, and clergy members so you can reach people who are going through the types of issues that lead to family law cases.
It’s okay to start with a broad sense of who your audience is, but this is something you should work on refining over time. One way to sharpen your picture of your target audience is to create personas that distill some of your audience members’ common traits into distinctive and memorable character profiles.
RELATED: How Personas Impact Legal Marketing
Taking Stock of What You Have
Before you start shaping your online footprint, it’s important to figure out what that footprint looks like already. Look at your firm’s website or your own website and ask: Does your bio page talk about mediation? Do you contribute any content to that site, and if so, does it relate to mediation? If not, these are opportunities you’ll want to prioritize as you start to implement your digital marketing strategy.
Of course, your website isn’t the only way to get your information out there. You should also look at the social media platforms and directory-style sites that are available to you. There’s no easier or more affordable way to start controlling your digital presence than to create, claim, or update your profiles on websites like:
Even if you already have profiles on these sites, evaluate them carefully to make sure they align with your brand. Promoting consistent, on-brand messaging across these sites (without duplicating too much content between them) is the key to getting value out of them.
Understanding Your Client’s Journey
Marketing professionals often refer to the concept of a potential customer’s or client’s “journey,” and they sometimes visualize it as a “funnel.” The idea of the marketing funnel is that you try to use your campaigns and strategies to capture a wide range of leads, then engage them with messaging and information to get them increasingly focused on you as the best solution to their needs.
Understanding your potential client’s journey toward becoming a client (and what happens after that) doesn’t require a lot of technical know-how. It simply means you need to be aware of the major steps that potential clients might go through during the process of hiring a mediator.
Those steps will probably look something like this:
- Your potential client starts with no awareness of you.
- The potential client discovers you, perhaps through a web search. Then they identify themselves (maybe by filling out a form on your website) and become a lead.
- The lead enters the research and discovery stage, which is the phase when they’re learning about you and considering your services (most likely alongside other options).
- The lead hires you and becomes a client.
- You successfully resolve the client’s case and they become a former client (which shouldn’t be the end of your relationship with them).
Once you understand these steps, you can figure out how to use digital marketing tools and tactics to connect with your potential clients and keep them engaged during each step.
Digital Marketing Tools and Tactics for Mediators
Once you’ve crafted your brand, identified your audience, taken stock of your current assets, and internalized your potential client’s journey, it’s time to start rolling out digital marketing strategies that promote your brand and get your messaging out to the people who need your services.
It’s important to note that any of these strategies could take up an article all on their own. Like so many other pursuits in life, you can spend as much time learning about the finer points of digital marketing tools and tactics as you’re willing to devote.
In the interest of preventing this article from ballooning to Victorian-novel length, we’re going to keep things brief in this next section, but we’ll also link to additional resources that can teach you more about each strategy. You can also check out our library of free ebooks and infographics for more information about some of these concepts. In particular, our Legal Marketing 101 infographic explains how many of these strategies fit together to build a holistic, sustainable, and profitable digital marketing strategy.
RELATED: Infographic: Legal Marketing 101
Tactic #1: Utilizing Directories and Listings
Do you know the most prominent directory sites that people use to find mediators? A couple of the top options offer free or relatively cheap accounts (although they’ll naturally try to sell you various upgrades to your profile), so there’s little reason not to at least create a profile and get yourself listed. The two most visible directory sites that focus exclusively on mediators are Mediate.com and AAA’s Mediation.org (that’s the American Arbitration Association, not the auto club).
In addition, you should also look at other directories that might be relevant to your target audience and your practice areas. For example, if you’re trying to target other attorneys to get personal injury cases, you might create a listing on Justia that focuses on your mediation services as well as your personal injury experience.
Tactic #2: Optimize for Local Search
“Local search” refers to the location-based results that pop up at the top of a Google search results page when you type in a location-specific query like “accordion dealers in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.” Since these results show up at the very top of the page, they’re quite valuable. If your target audience is local, then showing up prominently in local search results can be like ranking number one in Google for the search terms you’re targeting.
Here are a few steps you can take to improve your standings in local search results for mediation services:
- Enter and verify your info with Google My Business.
- Add photos to your listing.
- Use a local phone number rather than a toll-free number, and make sure your phone number is consistent across your Google listing, your website, and your social profiles.
- Make sure your Google listing talks about mediation. The more you focus your listing on mediation, the more likely you are to show up when people search for mediators in your area.
When people see your local search results, they’ll also see the reviews you’ve gotten from past clients, which can have a huge impact on whether they decide to learn more about you and consider your services. The best way to get more online reviews? Simply make it easier for your past clients to review you using tools like automated email follow-ups.
Tactic #3: Be Active on Social Media
Let’s get this out of the way: social media profiles do matter for mediators (and for attorneys in general). Compared to offline advertising and even your website, social media lets you build relationships much faster and reach different audiences.
Since you’re most likely targeting other attorneys, business owners, or intermediaries like therapists and counselors, LinkedIn is probably the single most important social network for promoting your content and marketing your mediation services. LinkedIn’s professional nature and ability to suggest connections gives you lots of opportunities to form valuable relationships that could yield clients, and you can even find and participate in attorney-specific networks.
Of course, you also have to reckon with the two titans of the social media world, Facebook and Twitter. Posting Facebook status updates and tweeting might feel frivolous at times, but we promise it’s not. In fact, we frequently find that clients get better results from their social media pages when they share staff pictures and day-to-day office goings-on than legal commentary and news items.
Checking out social media content is simply the way that people — especially younger people — gather information and get to know each other today, and not using these platforms can make you seem aloof and unapproachable.
Don’t just limit your social media presence to the “big three” sites of LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, however. Other social platforms like Instagram, YouTube, and even Snapchat can let you show off a more personal and accessible side of your brand, which can be especially valuable for family law and community mediators.
Tactic #4: Consider Paid Advertising
While organic website traffic (like the visits that come from your blog and social media posts) is very important, paid advertising can deliver rapid results and provide another important source of consistent traffic. The two main types of paid online advertising we’ll discuss here are pay-per-click (PPC) and programmatic advertising.
PPC (also sometimes called “paid search advertising”) involves bidding for the paid slots at the top and bottom of search engine results pages (the results marked “ad” that you see when you perform a Google search). The idea is that you’ll cause a potential client in your area to see your ad when they search for a relevant term like “mediation attorney in Fresno, California.”
Since these paid slots are often the first results a user sees when they perform an online search, these spots can be very valuable — and expensive to secure.
Although PPC campaigns can be costly, the benefit of them is that they produce lots of data you can use to refine them further, and there are many tools available to perform research and give your campaigns the best chance of producing leads and clients at a net gain.
Programmatic advertising is a bit like the digital equivalent of buying billboard space or bus ads, but you can adjust paid online ads on the fly. It’s sort of like buying a billboard that you can update on a whim, that only appears to people who are likely to hire you, and that looks a little different to each viewer based on what they’re looking for.
The tools available today to engineer programmatic advertising campaigns are very sophisticated, and you can use them to identify potential clients with laser-like precision. For example, if you’re a family law mediator, you might use geotargeting tools to focus a campaign on a couples’ counseling center in your area. This will result in your display ads showing up for anyone who browses the web on their mobile device while visiting that counseling center.
Tactic #5: Content Marketing
Of all the strategies we’re discussing here, content marketing is the one we believe is the most essential to digital marketing success. Content marketing plays a role in both generating leads and converting them to clients, and it acts as a central pillar that supports all the other tactics.
At its core, content marketing is about creating, publishing, and sharing content with the goal of building your brand’s reputation and visibility. When done right, content marketing strikes an artful balance between the information your target audience is looking for and the marketing messages you want to send them.
To see how content marketing can work when done right, imagine a potential client — a business owner, let’s say — who performs a web search asking, “Is my case a good candidate for mediation?” Fortunately, that search corresponds to a blog article you wrote addressing that exact question. The potential client sees that blog article in the search results, clicks on it, and they’re now on your website.
The blog article not only gives the information they’re looking for, but also introduces them to your practice, explains how you can help, and gives them opportunities to navigate to other content where they can find out more about you. Perhaps the potential client even fills out a form on your website in order to request a consultation or download an ebook about mediation, allowing you to send them additional automated email content that can answer more of their questions and keep them engaged.
In this case, content marketing not only introduced the potential client to your brand, but also kept them engaged and moving through the “funnel” toward a conversion.
Of course, for your content marketing strategy to accomplish all that, you need different types of content. You need a website with pages that clearly explain who you are, your credentials, your background, your philosophy, your approach to mediation, and your practice areas. Then you need to consistently create and publish informative blog content that addresses common questions and tackles the issues that are sending your audience to Google and other search engines for help.
If you want your potential clients to fill out a form, you’ll have to offer them something of value. A free consultation is one option for many lawyers, but you can also capture information by offering more in-depth pieces of content, like ebooks. And once you have that information, you’ll need well-written and engaging email content to follow up and keep your brand in front of those potential clients.
The first step toward getting a content marketing strategy off the ground is simple: start publishing content. If you have your own website or can publish on your law firm’s website, that’s great. If not, you can use LinkedIn to promote your articles. The important thing is to start writing articles (or even producing videos) about topics that resonate with members of your target audience and pique their curiosity about your services.
RELATED: How to Write Great Legal Content
Wrapping Up: No More Marketing as Usual
The biggest marketing obstacle that most mediators face is breaking through the perception that building a successful mediation practice is all about who you know. Even in a field that’s heavily relationship-based, the digital marketing tools and tactics covered here can help you make new professional connections and educate the ones you already have about your mediation services.
And sometimes, achieving digital marketing success in a field where everyone is accustomed to “business as usual” is just a matter of being the one to make the effort and put out consistent and targeted messaging related to your services. Don’t confuse the way that most mediators are currently marketing their practices with the best way.
Grow Your Mediation Practice With Help From LaFleur
Still not sure where to begin marketing your mediation practice? We know this has been a lot of information to take in. But don’t let that keep you from getting started. To find out more about how LaFleur can help grow your mediation practice with a holistic and forward-thinking digital marketing strategy, call (888) 222-1512 or fill out our convenient contact form.
Note: This article was based on a recent presentation in Grand Rapids, Michigan, by LaFleur’s Founder and President Chip LaFleur, entitled “The Holistic Approach to Marketing Your Mediation Practice.” Below, we have provided a link to the slide deck and handout from that presentation as well.
Presentation: The Holistic Approach to Marketing Your Mediation Practice
Handout: The Holistic Approach to Marketing Your Mediation Practice
Ramos, M., & Williams, T. (2008, July). Creating a mediator mission statement: Down the rabbit hole for advice from a caterpillar. Mediate.com. Retrieved from https://www.mediate.com/articles/ramosM1.cfm